Dundee-based artist Eilidh Morris has made a mark on the city’s streets by adding a technicolour dreamcoat of paint to the once-drab back door of popular coffee lounge, Blend.
The Reform Street coffee shop put a call out on its arts community page, Blend Creates, at the beginning of April for a local artist to design a painting for its back door, after some unsavoury graffiti on it was ironically titled “Art”.
Now, after much deliberation (and negotiation of the rain), Eilidh’s winning design can be seen brightening up the entrance on New Inn Entry, behind the Keiller Centre.
And although the competition offered a modest £100 commission, for regular “Blender” Eilidh, the painting was a labour of love – as well as a tribute to a lost friend, loyal Blend customer Ross “Bear” McLellan, who died last year.
“Blend is like my living room. I can just come and work in and just chat with the lovely people,” says Eilidh. “And that’s why it feels really nice to be a part of it now, especially with Bear passing away and him being a part of the creative community that they’ve built up here.”
Community and creativity – the perfect Blend
The coffee lounge opened in the city centre in 2018, and has established itself as a hub of charitable and artistic community activity since.
The cafe’s “Blend values” inspired the winning design, which features colourful figures with glowing fingertips listening, hugging and sharing food – as well as a small “Bear” in the bottom-right corner.
“The theme for the door was ‘art’ which is a very big, broad term,” Eilidh explains. “But I know Blend stands for ‘Blessed, Listen, Eat, Nurture, Dare’. So I was like, ‘Oh I can break that down and find a little image for each of them’.
“That’s when it became about the hands. They all have their glowing ET fingers because it’s about connection and passing things on…” Eilidh pauses, then says: “It does seem very germy and Covid-y now actually…oh well!”
“Covid-y” or not, the staff at Blend are thrilled with their cheery new door.
Assistant manager Rosie Messeder said: “As a local independent coffee shop in the heart of Dundee, we realised we had an opportunity to reach out to the wealth of creative talent in the city when our back door was graffitied during the recent lockdown.
“We’re more than just a coffee shop, we’re passionate about people and in particular artists, many of whom have lost work during the pandemic. Eilidh’s design perfectly captured the heart of what we strive to be.”
And the loyalty to “shopping local” goes both ways, with Eilidh insisting: “If a Costa tries to move in here, I’m taking my door!”
Creating two birds with one stone
An expressive visual artistic and spoken word performer to trade, street art and design was a departure for former DJCAD student Eilidh.
“I don’t usually do design. Usually with visual art, it’s doing it in the moment, just doing a doodle. But not a lot of people are going to let you just doodle on their walls! So it was a nice little experiment in trying out design.”
The video puts a time-lapse of Eilidh’s painting process alongside a music-driven spoken word poem, Hard Work And Warm Water.
Johnny, who is also the lead singer of Dundee band VFLAMBDA, explains: “I was just going to film Eilidh doing the painting. I thought, ‘time-lapses look cool on YouTube’.
“And then it turned out creatively quite apt to the bigger project, which is great. That seems to be how we work. We do something functional and then it gets deep.”
To enjoy creating art, I feel I must admit, I had to ditch the struggle to try and monetise it.”
Eilidh Morris, Hard Work And Warm Water
Opening up about the message behind the video, Eilidh says: “The poem that we’ve got over that video is Hard Work And Warm Water, which is an adaptation of a Charles Kingsley quote from The Waterbabies: ‘Hard work and cold water’.
“Because that’s what his guidance was – y’know, all you need is hard work and cold water to get you through something. And I was trying to take the gentler approach. Like, no – you can still work hard, but be gentle with yourself.”